In 2018 when Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2957 into law, the bill banning non-native finfish farming in Washington’s waters after 2022, we thought Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens in Puget Sound would soon be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that may no longer be the case as Cooke Aquaculture is working quickly and quietly to transform their Atlantic salmon net pens into “steelhead” net pens, with little pushback from state regulators. This shocking development is not only an affront to transparent government, but more importantly it is an environmental disaster in the making.
On October 1st, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) advanced a proposal to allow farmed steelhead to be planted in Cooke’s existing Puget Sound net pens, determining that environmental impacts were likely to be non-significant. For public review, all that was provided was a short comment period.
We cannot allow this fish farm bait and switch to become a reality without a proper review, so we have been working to send a loud and clear message to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that the state needs to conduct a more thorough environmental review process. The following are the comments we submitted to the Department that highlight the inadequacies of their existing environmental review process and make a compelling case for why the Department should conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement.